The City of Redding Uses OpenGov Stories to Share Critical Carr Fire Recovery Information

August 9, 2018 – OpenGov

Carr Fire

Few words can describe the shock and devastation a community experiences when a wildfire sears through, incinerating everything in its path. Lifetimes of memories, the security of one’s home, the sense of place in an environment you grew up in, the businesses you worked so hard to make successful -- all gone within minutes.

In Redding, California, the Carr Fire, which is the State’s sixth most destructive wildfire in its history, continues to char through Shasta County. It has already consumed 173,000 acres of land, more than 1,500 homes and businesses, and displaced thousands of people. As of this publication, the fire is only 47 percent contained.

Local Government Responds with Modern Communication Tools
In emergencies, community members turn to their local government for guidance and assistance.

As long as a fire threatens a city, CAL FIRE is responsible for communications to communities. But once that threat is gone, the city takes over. This is the situation the City of Redding faced last Thursday, August 2, when Shasta County and Redding residents began to trickle back in as the fire shifted away from the city.

The City of Redding needed a way to communicate with residents and provide the leadership and guidance people need to make critical decisions as they begin to recover.

Within 48 hours, Redding leveraged Stories—a major enhancement to OpenGov’s Citizen Engagement solution that helps governments more effectively share information with their communities using easy-to-build web pages that combine data, images, maps, videos, and text -- to develop a disaster recovery information site. The site features critical information covering debris removal, the location of active fires, financial assistance, safety information, supplies and shelter, damaged property, housing, how to contact utilities, air quality, school impact, and other recovery action steps. The City of Redding also used Open Town Hall to collect and answer questions from the community.

The site is now the hub for all recovery communication with community members and in the first 48 hours more than 10,000 people turned to the site for information. Assisted by OpenGov, the City of Redding updates the site daily to ensure it features the latest information.

Reacting fast with centralized information cuts through the chaos
Every local government plans for disaster; but when disaster strikes having the ability to quickly provide information that can be accessed by anyone with internet access and updated daily is critical; it can make the difference between meeting the public’s needs in an emergency or failing to do so.

“I grew up in the Town of Sonoma, and my parents were evacuated from their home when the Nuns Fire came over the ridge. In that moment, and the weeks that followed, my parents craved information -- everything from the location of active fires to where to get food and water to where they could make donations and volunteer. The more information community members have, the more at ease they are and the faster they’re able to recover,” said Joseph Roualdes, Head of Communications, OpenGov.

“Everyone at OpenGov is proud that we are able to help the City of Redding and Shasta County recover from the devastating wildfire, and we believe that every government can benefit from using Stories to communicate critical recovery information during a crisis and at every point throughout the year.”